In 2015, I discovered my blood glucose and triglyceride levels were much higher than expected after a routine exam. Busy tending to my kids’ needs, I opted to skip several years of doctor’s visits. I assumed I was in excellent health. So I was surprised to find out when my lipid and glucose levels revealed otherwise. It was a blessing in disguise since it led me to a path to make better choices for my health.
Out of this experience, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share my journey to help others with finding their own path to a healthier lifestyle. One of the things I did was take a closer look at my eating habits. At the time, I didn’t really pay much attention. In fact, I thought I could eat whatever I wanted as long as I was burning off calories. My definition of ‘health’ at that season of my life was being able to run long distances. While exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle, I missed the mark with eating well.
I was on a mission to transform my health, so I paid more attention to my eating habits. And figured out where changes needed to happen.
Here are the five eating habits I identified and changed:
Say NO to after-dinner snacks.
It used to be a norm for me, a glass of wine to unwind with a piece of dark chocolate. But I didn’t stop at just the wine and chocolate. More often than not, I’ll also have crackers or tortilla chips, or peanuts – I love shelled peanuts! I had the habit of snacking every single night.
After I said goodnight to my girls, I turned on the TV and relaxed with a snack in hand. The crazy thing was I wasn’t even hungry! I realized I was snacking for comfort..
You may be familiar with ‘intermittent fasting’ or lengthening the period between meals, between 12 to 16 hours. Dr. Lipman, the author of How To be Well: The 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life, pointed out the effects of fasting in your body:
“It allows your body to experience a longer-than-normal period of low insulin in the blood. This tells your body to burn energy and keep insulin low, which is a powerful reset and the opposite of what happens with a constant stream of food.”
While I never thought I could go without eating for an extended period, what worked best for me was an overnight fast. The last meal of the day is usually between 6-7pm with the first meal the next day around 10am. My body has adjusted well to this eating time frame where I’m not hungry until late morning.
And in case you’re wondering, I still have dark chocolate (only occasional red wine), but right after dinner.
Eat MORE Veggies
Michael Pollan, author and journalist, summarized eating well into 7 words – Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not Too Much.
Sadly, it’s a struggle for most Americans. According to the CDC, only 1 in 10 adults get enough fruits or vegetables. I struggled with it as well. For breakfast, I ate cereals, bagels, waffles – mostly processed and sweetened.
However, slowly I changed to eating more fiber, protein and fat in the form of vegetables, fruits, nuts and eggs. A typical breakfast is a 2-egg scramble with onions, mushrooms, and greens topped with slices of avocado. It’s delicious and satisfying!
Eat LESS pasta, bread, and rice (starchy foods)
The impact of starchy foods like pasta, bread, and rice on my glucose levels made me reconsider the amount and type I ate. In my quest for a health transformation, I looked for substitutes which translated to more vegetables on my plate.
For spaghetti, I bought a spiralizer to make ‘zoodles’ out of zucchini. I cook it with garlic, onions, and mushrooms topped with pasta sauce.
Cauliflower rice was a good substitute for rice. It makes a delicious stir-fry with garlic, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, and broccoli.
Regarding bread, I found a dense fiber-rich Sunflower Seed Bread at Aldi’s (local store in Jacksonville, FL). A good habit is checking the food label for ingredients and fiber content. This one has about 8g of fiber (recommendation is 25 daily for women).
While getting used to the different flavors and textures took time, I knew this change would benefit my health in the long run.
YES to fat (the good kind)
You’ve probaby heard there’s a difference between healthy and unhealthy fats. Usually the unhealthy fats are paired with a lot of sugar such as cookies and cakes. But fat plays an important role in our health. For instance, take the power of Omega-3 fats with improving insulin resistance and reducing inflammation.
I aim to eat fish 1-2x/week and take a fish oil supplement to increase my omega-3 levels. If you’re wondering what to eat, Dr. Mark Hyman recommends the following as the best types of fish to eat. Using the acronym S-M-A-S-H – Salmon (wild), Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines, and Herring. My favorites are canned sardines and herring.
Additionally, I ensure I include a variety of nuts and seeds- almonds, walnuts, and pistachios as well as pumpkin and sunflower seeds to either my breakfast or snack. Avocado is another excellent fat source that I love to eat. This article from mindbodygreen.com gives an excellent insight into why you should eat avocados every day.
BYE-BYE to frappucinos, mocha lattes and sweet teas.
This may have been the most difficult transition! Part of my errands usually included a stop to a coffee or a boba tea cafe. I remember taking my daughter to the bookstore where a Starbucks was next door. I always treated myself to a grande mint mocha frappuccino before I knew it contained a whopping 65g of added sugar. More than twice the amount of the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 25 g for women.
It made a big difference to turn away from all the sugary drinks. So now I enjoy a plain ole mug of black coffee. And drink a lot more water too! Best of all, I’ve saved money and my health brewing coffee at home.
These five eating habits considerably improved my health. However, the changes took months of being aware and intentional with my choices to make them habitual.
As you know, any significant change in your lifestyle takes time. However, once you notice the positive effects, you are driven to continue with the behaviors which become a part of your lifestyle.
I continue to strive to choose foods that nourishes my body. I’m grateful I overcame the hurdles along the way and took steps toward better health.
What eating habits are you ready to change? What might help you move towards healthier choices?
You can schedule a free Healthy Lifestyle Strategy session with me to talk about how to make these healthy eating habits a part of your lifestyle. CLICK TO SCHEDULE